Dennis Rodman arrived back in Korea on Thursday December 19 to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to finalize plans for a basketball exhibition featuring 12 former NBA players. The athletic event will take place on January 9th and while the roster is not yet known, Rodman has been reported to assist in training North Korea basketball players during his time in the country.
Rodman and Kim have been friends since he traveled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television. Kim is an avid basketball fan which would explain what would otherwise be considered an unlikely friendship. Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet with Kim since he inherited power from his father in 2011.
On the political side, Kim’s once-powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek was executed less than a week ago. But it has been reported there is no instability and Kim remains firmly in control. Rodman has been under scrutiny for his relationship with Kim and the issues surrounding North Korea’s human rights record and its continued detainment of American Kenneth Bae for allegedly committing anti-state crimes.
Rodman has continued to avoid North Korea’s political issues, during an interview with the Associated Press Rodman stated “I can’t control what they do with their government, I can’t control what they say or how they do things here.” “I’m just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country.”
Rodman has plans for another exhibition game in June.